Lets Talk About It

Parents should parent, not grandparents

Should adult children use their parents as full-time babysitters? Perhaps my best response will be no; but situations are not always black and white, and we must evaluate each situation on its own merit. More importantly, I truly wish some families would make a change in 2022 to give grammy a break.

It seems to be so obvious that the mothering instinct never fades with age in most women. However, it is imperative for us to understand that after children become adults, parenting days are over. Too many grandmothers feel the necessity to always have children around them. Sometimes, there is an emotional and psychological need for this to happen. They find a sense of purpose from the caring and nurturing for children. On the other hand, many grandmothers also have a constant need to control and have authority over others. This gives them a sense of power.

Some parents actually feel it is their God-given responsibility to provide babysitting care for their grandchildren. Still, other parents believe that no one else has the skill and right to take care of their grandchildren but them. They want to direct the lives of their grandchildren as they did their own children.

Parents are the primary providers, nurturers, and educators of their children. All other individuals, including grandparents, are only to provide emotional support for this growing family. Supporters only give assistance when requested. They watch silently from the sidelines, giving encouraging words.

When silent support turns into instruction and advice, confusion sets in. In other words, if grammy’s babysitting rules are different from mom’s and dad’s, the little children will become confused, miserable, and sometimes angry. If grandfather or grandmother acts as if their years of experience and knowledge as parents are superior to that of their own adult children, this will be reflected each time instruction or discipline is needed. Often, the parents would give one instruction and the grandparent another, causing great confusion in the mind of the little child.

Unfortunately, many parents actually tell their child before they get married and have children, that they will always take care of their children for them when they are too busy and are at work. Therefore, the children plan their budgets, daily chores and activities with their parents in mind. In most cases, this is an unhealthy decision. It shows that mothers and fathers do not value the importance of their own role as parents. It is also a sign of irresponsibility, laziness and poor family planning. It is also a poor example of parental leadership. What lessons are they teaching their children if grammy is the one who always makes the most important decisions in their growing children’s lives?

Sadly, when grandparents find it difficult to say no – especially to the request of their own adult children – they are often placing their own lives at risk. The little time-bombs of energy can quickly deplete a grandmother of needed strength to make it through the normal day’s activities. Therefore, they can become sick and extremely exhausted. They are unable to enjoy their quiet times alone or their retirement years to the fullest because all of their waking hours are packed with noisy “two-legged creatures” demanding their attention.

However, their adult children are equally as guilty. They should not take advantage of the willing spirit of their parents. They should find other avenues for babysitting. Time with grandparents should be special, cherished moments selected to enrich the life of the growing child. It can be short, daily periods or weekly visits. Or perhaps special babysitting nights when mom and dad are out to a banquet.

Adult children, it is time to stand up and stop taking advantage of your parents. They are growing tired and weak. Give them the opportunity to enjoy their retirement days in peace.

Although some may consider my thoughts harsh and cold, it is only a gentle reminder that God’s instruction to married couples to leave parents and cleave one to another extends to times of having children also. Too many only cleave to each other for a short time. When children come along, they reconnect to mom and dad again.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with grandparents volunteering and wisely providing some level of babysitting for their grandchildren. However, their children must not plan their household with “maid-grammy” in mind.

On the other hand, thank God for loving grandparents who have been there for their grandchildren. There are many who are reading this who can do better than taking advantage of their moms and dads. If you cannot afford a babysitter and mom is the only answer, then be respectful and considerate about the times your parents need alone. Do not take advantage of their kindheartedness. Remember, you have the responsibility to parent your children – not your mother and father. Please keep the children today because grammy is tired. Pledge to yourself to make a difference for grammy in 2022. Have a wonderful new year.

• Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send your questions or comments to q
uestion@soencouragment.org, telephone 327-19809 or visit www.soencouragement.org. 

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